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Gallium arsenide

NameGallium arsenide
Chemical FormulaGaAs
AppearanceDark gray cubic crystals
Formula weight144.64 amu
Lattice constant0.56533 nm
Crystal structureZinc-blende
State of matter at STPsolid
Melting point at SP1513 K
Boiling point at SP?
Specific gravity5.318
Band gap at 300K1.424 eV
Electron effective mass0.0067 me
Light hole effective mass0.082 me
Heavy hole effective mass0.45 me
Electron mobility at 300 K0.92 m2/V·s
Hole mobility at 300 K0.04 m2/V·s
Decompostion productsHighly toxic arsenic fumes
SI units were used where possible.

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is a chemical compound composed of gallium and arsenic. It is an important semiconductor, and is used to make devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits, infrared light-emitting diodes and laser diodes.

The electronic properties of GaAs are superior to silicon's. It has a higher saturated electron velocity and higher electron mobility, allowing it to function at frequencies in excess of 250 GHz. Also, GaAs devices generate less noise than silicon devices.

Another advantage of GaAs is that it has a direct bandgap. This means that it can be used to emit light. Silicon has an indirect bandgap, and so is very poor at emitting light. (Nonetheless, recent advances may make silicon LEDs and lasers possible).

Silicon has two major advantages over GaAs. First, silicon is cheap. This is for several reasons: silicon's large wafer size (maximum of ~300mm compared to ~150mm diameter), high strength allowing for easier processing, and of course the scale of the economy.

The second major advantage is the existence of silicon dioxide—one of the best known insulators of any kind. Silicon dioxide can easily be incorporated into silicon circuits wherever a good insulator is required. GaAs circuits must either use the intrinsic semiconductor itself or silicon nitride; neither comes close to the extremely good properties of silicon dioxide.

Gallium arsenide integrated circuits are commonly used in mobile phones, satellite communications, microwave point-to-point links, and some radar systems.

Cray Research attempted to make a GaAs-based supercomputer in the early 1990s. The venture failed, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1995.

See also semiconductor, electronics, integrated circuit, semiconductor devices, field effect transistor